Category Archives: Books

The Long Song Pilot Review

Historical fiction is more than just a story based on facts. It has the ability to make the modern person think about where we have come and where we are going.

The new three part miniseries, The Long Song (based on the novel of the same name by the late author Andrea Levy), premiered last night on PBS. July (Tamara Lawrance) was born a slave on the island of Jamaica in the 19th century. She is taken as a child from her mother to work as a personal maid for Caroline Mortimer (Hayley Atwell) and given the new name of Marguerite. Caroline is petty, selfish, and self-serving.

When the slaves start to revolt and talk of freedom, things start to change for both July and Caroline. That change is represented by the new overseer, Robert Goodwin (Jack Lowden).

Like many Americans, I was only taught about slavery within the United States. But I was not entirely aware about slaves that were kept by Brits living and working in Jamaica. I enjoyed the first episode. Caroline is a character that is similar to Scarlett O’Hara (aka, you love to hate her), played to perfection by Atwell. Lawrance is brilliant as July, continually outwitting her mistress. The brief introduction of Robert Goodwin (Lowden) toward the end of the episode is just enough to stir the plot up further, making me at least want to watch the second and third episodes.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Long Song airs on PBS on Sundays at 10PM.

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Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation Book Review

Every generation has it’s myths. The myth of the millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) is one or more of the following: we are lazy, we are too into technology, we are stuck in perpetual adolescence, etc.

The truth is as far from the stories as one can get.

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, by Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen, was published last fall.

According to the author, the millennial generation (of which I am a part of) is defined by one word: burn out. Between the pressures to succeed in the workplace, create a perfect image online, and keep busy, it is no wonder we are exhausted. Her thesis is that this generation was trained early on by parents and teachers that we are judged solely by our achievements. That pressure was compounded by the Great Recession of 2008. Through no fault of our own, the opportunities for professional and income growth will forever be limited. The job security that previous generations were used to no longer exists.

She further explores the growing mental health crisis, the expectations from social media, and that in spite of how far we have come, women are still doing much of the housework and childcare.

I loved this book. It once and for all puts to bed the ideas of this generation and reveals the facts. We don’t want a handout, we are not glued to our phones, and we are far from lazy. We just want the same chances as our parents and grandparents. The problem is that those chances do not exist in the same way as they did in the past.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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A Promised Land Book Review

Political memoirs and autobiographies are an interesting subgenre. The perspective of the subject and their actions while in and out of office is often based on where the reader is on the political spectrum.

Former President Barack Obama published the first volume of his memoirs, A Promised Land last fall. The reader is taken on a journey from the President’s early days to the ups and downs of his first term. When we meet the future President at the beginning of the story, he is a young man who is driven and intelligent, but listless. As he matures, marries, starts his family, and his career in politics, he starts to become the man we know him to be today.

After four years of the chaos and noise of you know who, it is a pleasure to hear from a President who is thoughtful, well spoken, and at the very least listens and considers the opinions of others. What I appreciated was his honesty, especially on subjects that are controversial and/or complicated. It takes an adult to be open and candid, especially when dealing with the difficulties that are thrown our way.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Thoughts on International Holocaust Memorial Day 2021

Democracy, as Americans have recently learned the hard way, is not guaranteed or promised. It must be cherished, protected, and stood up for when necessary. The same could be said for human rights.

Today is International Holocaust Memorial Day. Some may say that we no longer need this day of remembrance, it so far in the past that we can move on. The hard and sad truth is that we cannot move on. Eighty years after the end of World War II, anti-Semitism (and prejudice is general) is as alive and well now as it was then.

Back in the summer of 2019, I went to the Auschwitz museum in New York City. If there is one message that is clear, it is that both the perpetrators and victims were normal people, as normal as you and I.

I recently finished watching the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. It takes place in the fictional Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian patriarchy in which women are second class citizens and non-conformists are enslaved or killed. Though it could be called dystopian science fiction novel, the truth is that this world is closer to our reality than we think it is. The riot in Washington D.C. three weeks ago was a cold slap in the face and a harsh reminder of that truth.

The only way to prevent another Holocaust of any group of people is education, respecting diversity, and remembering the past.

May the memory of those who were murdered because of who they were (my own relatives included) forever be a blessing.

Z”L.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

It has been said that all that glitters is not gold. The same could be said about Hollywood.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Reid Jenkins, was published back in 2017. Back in the day, Evelyn Hugo was an A list movie star. But her time in the spotlight has long since passed. After years of living quietly in the background, Evelyn is ready to tell her story. She chooses Monique Grant, a young writer to be her scribe.

Monique has a lot on her plate at the moment. Her marriage is all but over and her career is stuck in the mud. Though she is not entirely sure why she has been chosen, Monique seizes upon the opportunity that has been handed to her. Evelyn’s life story is full of ambition, forbidden love, and friendships that were unexpected. Along the way, Monique discovers that she and Evelyn are connected in ways that surprise them both.

Sometimes, stories about old Hollywood, whether they be fiction or non fiction, can veer off into two different voices. They can either be a tabloid-y tell all, or sound like comes straight out of the studio PR department. I really loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the narrative, and I loved the twist that was absolutely perfect.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Quote of the Day – January 17, 2021 — cup of tea with that book, please

Quote of the Day – January 17, 2021 — cup of tea with that book, please

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Beyond the Ghetto Gates: A Novel Book Review

A woman’s brain is a fearsome thing to behold. Especially when she is not afraid to use it.

Beyond the Ghetto Gates: A Novel, by Michelle Cameron, was published last spring. The books tell the story of two different women. Though they are separated by religion, they are brought together by fate and the French invasion of their home city of Ancona, Italy.

Mirelle is Jewish and like all Jewish residents of the city, she lives in the ghetto. Though she has a mind for numbers, it is inconceivable that she could join her father in the family business. Her only goal, as she is told over and over again, is marriage. She could agree to say “I do” to the older and wealthy businessman that everyone is telling her to marry. Mirelle could also run away and elope with her French Catholic lover, but the consequences of such a union would be disastrous.

Francesca is Catholic and lives in the Christian part of Ancona with her husband and children. To say that he is not Prince Charming is an understatement. When he gets involved with the wrong crowd and helps to steal a miracle portrait of the Madonna, Francesca has a hard choice to make. She could do her wifely duty and support her husband, even when she knows what he did was wrong. Or, she could speak up and create trouble for herself.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I was drawn in by the premise of the novel, the well drawn characters, and the detailed description of the world late 18th century Italy. I also loved the ending, which is atypical for the genre. But if there is one major flaw in the narrative, is that the romance. It is supposed to be the high point of the story, but it falls flat.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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All Creatures Great and Small Pilot Review

I don’t know about anyone else, but my first job out of college was eye opening.

The new Masterpiece/PBS series, All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by James Herriot, premiered last night.

In 1930’s Britain, James Herriot (played by newcomer Nicholas Ralph) is a young man with one dream: to be a veterinarian. All hope seems lost until he gets a letter from Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West). Farnon is a veterinarian living and working in rural Yorkshire. James accept the job as Farnon’s new assistant.

His first meeting with his new boss is an eye opening one. Farnon is well, eccentric, to say the least. James is young, eager, and just a little green. Though he is not without allies. Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) is fully aware of her employer’s nature and encourages him to give James a shot. There is also Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton), a local woman who works on her family’s farm and could possibly be a love interest.

This is not the first time these books have been adapted for television. They were previously adapted in the late 1970’s and late 1980’s. This is my first introduction to these characters as I had not seen the previous series or read the books. To be perfectly honest, I was not sure if I would enjoy the program. I am glad I was wrong. It is charming and a nice way to begin the week anew.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

All Creatures Great and Small air on PBS Sunday nights at 9PM.

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I Am Nujood, Age 10, and Divorced: A Memoir Book Review

The concept of marrying for love is new in the course of human history. Throughout most of our time on Earth (and still in some parts of the world), marriage is a business arrangement. A woman is sold or given to her husband as though she is an animal or an inanimate object.

The memoir, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced: A Memoir was published in 2010. In 2008, Nujood Ali was a young girl living with her family in Yemen. Married off to a man decades older than her, Ms. Ali told her her story with the help of journalist Delphine Minoui. Used as a servant by her new family and abused by her husband, she knew that she had no choice but to run away. Arriving at the local courthouse, she asked for a divorce.

In the west, we like to think that marriage is between two consenting adults that are ready, willing, and able to make what will hopefully be a lifetime commitment. But marriage is other part of the world is seen differently. Child marriage is is more common than we think it is. I loved this book. Ms. Ali not only broke barriers in her home country, she inspired millions of women across the world to do the same.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Recipe for Persuasion: A Novel Book Review

No one goes through life without regrets. It is part of the human experience.

Recipe for Persuasion, (based on the Jane Austen novel, Persuasion)by Sonali Dev, was published last year.

Chef Ashna Raje has a lot on her plate. She is trying to ensure that her late father’s beloved restaurant lives to see another day. Her overbearing and emotionally distant mother, Shobi, is trying to control her life. Out of sheer desperation, Ashna signs up for the reality cooking competition, Cooking with the Stars.

What could only make a bad situation worse is being partnered with Rico Silva, the recently retired superstar soccer player. He is also her ex-boyfriend from high school/first love.

Rico is not happy that he will be working with Ashna and is determined to prove that he has moved on. Their first meeting after twelve years does not go well. As much as Rico and Ashna would prefer to work with someone else, their chemistry is undeniable. But with too many unanswered questions about the past and unspoken feelings, is there even a possibility of re-kindling their relationship?

Among the six completed books by Austen, Persuasion is the hardest for modern writers to replicate. The past romance between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth creates a narrative complication that is unique to this particular novel.

That being said, it is not the worst JAFF (Jane Austen fanfiction) that I have ever read. Though the middle of the novel is a bit slow, I like that the author gave the reader insight into both Rico and Shobi’s perspectives, fleshing out the overall story. Austen only gives her readers a short time to see the world through Wentworth’s eyes, the rest of the story belongs to Anne.

I also liked the insight into traditional Indian culture, which I suspect is not much different than other traditional cultures.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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